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Stadium at North High gets a hearing

November 12, 2002|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - North Hagerstown High School had a home-field advantage Monday, with nearly 80 people giving support at a public hearing to address the school's proposed $2.7 million athletic complex.

More than 250 people, including alumni, public officials, school neighbors and distant sports fans, attended the hearing held at North High.

Only one complaint arose at the nearly three-hour meeting. A resident of Beechwood Drive, across the street from North High, feared any stadium parking overflow would end up in his front yard.

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"I am not an opponent of the stadium," said the resident, Dennis Molloy, after the hearing. He said he is just concerned about neighboring residents.

The proposed athletic complex, which would be to the southeast of the school where a parking lot currently is located, would include a field to accommodate football, soccer and lacrosse, a three-level press box/ticket stand, concession stands, restrooms, four banks of stadium lights and a Wall of Fame.

The stadium would have a capacity of about 1,200, with an area set aside for possible future expansion.

The school now has parking for 280 cars, with a proposal to add 60 more spaces.

Stuart Mullendore of Boonsboro said he has lived within 300 yards of the stadium at Boonsboro High School for 32 years. "It never had an impact on my family or pets," he said.

South Hagerstown High School Athletic Director Mike Tesla said working countless hours with North High's coaches to create a fair schedule doesn't compare to the amount of pride lost due to the absence of North High's own stadium.

"South High doesn't have their own field, either," he said. Tesla said it's time North Hagerstown got its own stadium.

Del. Bob McKee, R-Washington, who represents a portion of the North End affected by the stadium, spoke at the hearing to say he fully supports the proposal his full support and will explore state funding for it.

Hagerstown Police Department Officer and Police Athletic League Director Brett McKoy said he did some research on the number of crimes reported over a three-year period between the hours of School Stadium games played on Friday and Saturday nights. McKoy said 174 calls came in during periods when games were played, but few were related to actual events at the stadium.

Ted Reeder, a member of the Board of Directors at Coffman Nursing Home, said he came to the hearing to represent the center's neutral stance on the building of a stadium. The nursing home has been a past opponent of building a stadium because of concerns that noise and light pollution would disturb its residents.

The proposed athletic complex would be built on the Bester property, which does not affect the Western Maryland Hospital deed that initially restricted the building of a stadium.

"The physical location of the school will provide an adequate buffer as it relates to our facility," Reeder said.

He said the nursing home is concerned a little about traffic flow and overflow of parking for stadium events.

Carol Kreykenbohm-Barnhart, a parent and guidance counselor at North High, said not allowing children to play under stadium lighting not only affects their pride, but it affects the amount of support parents can give to their children.

Games played at North High have to be played before dark and most junior varsity and varsity games are played simultaneously on separate fields.

"I stand on the hill at home games because I cannot favor one child," she said.

Rachel Flurie, a junior soccer player at the school, said she and her teammates lose inspiration because they cannot watch their varsity counterparts while they play their own games.

Playing under stadium lighting, she said, "gives you that much more drive to play, to show off and win."

One of the complex concerns is that the $2.7 million price tag is a little overwhelming considering the school is not seeking the Washington County Board of Education's general funding for the project.

School alumni and former football player Scott Paddack said the stadium has been a dream for North High students and graduates for years.

"How the heck are we going to pay for it?" he said. Paddack then pledged $500 to the complex.

Teacher and coach Greg Slick said after the hearing that he was surprised more people did not turn out to speak against the athletic complex. He said students passed out more than 400 fliers to neighboring school communities to allow them an opportunity to address concerns.

North Hagerstown High School, the largest school in the county, has been without its own stadium complex since its start and has shared facilities with South Hagerstown High School, including its stadium, for 43 years.

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